Monday, February 08, 2010

The Language of Artdetail of Brave painting

My Mom's first language was Polish. Her parents had emigrated from Poland before she was born and it wasn't until she went to school that she began to understand and speak English. By the time I was born, she no longer spoke Polish but for some reason she sent my brother and I to Saturday morning Polish school when we were about 7 and 8. I guess she was hoping that in one hour a week we would somehow be able to absorb a language that was entirely foreign to us. I still remember the feeling of complete and utter confusion as to what everyone was saying around me. The teacher would ask me things, encouraging me to respond, but I honestly had absolutely no idea of what she was saying (nor did I have the words or the courage to answer), so I would just nod and pretend to understand.

I think my first language was art. I understood colours and shapes instinctively as a young child. Learning to actually speak art on an intellectual level however, did not begin to develop until my early 30's when I began attending a professional artist's critique group. I remember a very similar feeling, akin to the Polish class, where everyone around me spoke a language I didn't understand. Things like value rhythms and intensity of, just like when I was 7, I spent a lot of time nodding and pretending.

I do speak art fluently now. I understand that lines, values, shapes and colours are like the letters, words and phrases of the literary language and I am constantly try to improve my art vocabulary. I also now understand that art is essentially a medium of expression, whether that expression is a statement of fact (realist art) or something more (abstract or expressionist art). There are many art 'dialects' (commercial art, fine art) along with numerous individual styles but the foundation and structure of the art language is really quite universal and does exist even beyond personal taste and fad.

The best part, is that understanding art and learning to speak the basics, is absolutely achievable by anyone with the desire to learn and the courage to make mistakes...just like learning to speak Polish.


Tad Barney said...

thank you!

Dianne Forrest Trautmann said...

Did you eventually learn to speak Polish? I remember attending a church service one Sunday morning not realizing the whole mass was being said in Polish. Luckily I knew what was going on, so it was a fun experience.
When I run into artists that like to speak in tongues, I always ask for a translation of what I don't understand rather than just nodding. Sometimes I think people fling around jargon to keep people at a distance rather than elucidate. Tell it to me straight! But you are right, with practice one can learn any language. That's what I keep telling myself as I learn Irish Gaelic. 3 yrs and counting...

Caricature Girl said...

You are welcome Tad...:)

No I never did learn Polish. I do still have the Polish text book and plan to alter it one day..:)
That is SO cool that you are learning Gaelic!